If you’re familiar with the Chinese zodiac, you may be aware that Monday is the Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year. It’s one of the most important Chinese holidays, and it’s celebrated around the world. And of course, food is a part of the celebration.
In Chinese traditions, foods served during this time are rich in wordplay and symbolism. Some of the dishes and ingredients have names that sound similar to words and phrases referring to good wishes.
For example, “kumquat” literally means “golden orange.” Symbolizing wealth and prosperity, the little citrus fruits, and sometimes the tree saplings, are given as gifts during Chinese New Year. Other “wealthy” fruits include oranges and tangerines. The larger citrus like pummelos and grapefruits symbolize abundance, prosperity, and family unity. Another item that represents good fortune is daikon. In one Chinese dialect, the word for radish is a homophone for “good fortune.”
If you’re thinking of preparing some foods in honor of Chinese New Year, check out the selection of fresh Asian vegetables at your local supermarket. Along with daikon, you’ll probably find bok choy, napa cabbage, fresh snow peas, ginger root, and more. Almost every produce department carries these items now because Asian cuisine is so popular. If you aren’t already cooking with these ingredients, maybe this is a good time to try adding something new to your recipe repertoire. There’s nothing like a bowl of steaming rice or noodles topped with stir-fried, colorful, and crisp vegetables.
2016 is also welcoming a new Chinese zodiac animal sign—the Year of the Monkey. While I don’t follow the Chinese zodiac closely, I always find the symbolism and characteristics associated with the different animal signs interesting.
Astrologists say that anything goes in monkey years, as the monkey sign is known for enthusiastic energy and mischievousness. Maybe we should prepare for the unexpected and hang loose this year.
If you’re interested in learning what your Chinese zodiac sign is, check out this page.
One of the many Chinese New Year wishes translates to “May your happiness be without limit.” Kung Hei Fat Choy! (Happy New Year and be prosperous!)